Arie Egozi/TEL AVIV

Israel has issued a request for information for up to nine aircraft to be converted into signals intelligence (SIGINT) and in-flight refuelling tankers.

Air force sources say the Israeli air force plans to modify four Gulfstream V business jets or Boeing 737s as SIGINT platforms and between two and four Boeing 767s as tankers. Israel operates elderly Boeing 707s in both roles.

Funding for the SIGINT system has been approved, although the budget for the tankers requires clearance. The SIGINT platform is likely to be chosen later this year.

Gulfstream teamed with Israel's Elta last year in anticipation of an air force requirement to replace its 707 intelligence platforms.

The move is part of a systematic replacement of support aircraft. Last year it selected the Raytheon Beech King Air B200 to replace DouglasC-47s used for electronic warfare missions and Israel Aircraft Industries 1124 Westwind/Sea Scan modified business jets used for maritime surveillance on behalf of the Israeli navy.

Meanwhile, the air force is developing a proposal to apply the USAir Force's Lockheed Martin C-130X Hercules Avionics Modernisation Programme (AMP) to its C-130Hs. It will then replace elderly C-130Es with C-130Js. Israel operates 12 C-130Hs and 10 C-130Es, the latter handed over secondhand in 1973.

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) maintains the Hercules, but the C-130Es are becoming increasingly expensive to keep going.

Once the USAF has selected a C-130X AMP winner - expected at the end of this month - the Israeli air force will apply for US Foreign Military Sales funding for its own upgrade. BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon led teams are competing for the USC-130X AMP - the USAF could modernise up to 519 aircraft.

Source: Flight International